The Role of Government in a Democracy
Government is the institution that makes the rules for adults to live by and then enforces those rules. It also judges any conflicts between the rules. Governments exist at the local, state, national, and international levels. Some governments are more powerful than others, but all governments have a similar function.
Governments are responsible for providing security, stability, and vital services such as police and fire departments, education, public transportation, mail service, and food and housing for the poor. They are also responsible for regulating access to important “public goods,” or services that benefit more than one person at the same time and can’t be restricted to only those who pay for them.
These public goods include things like education and public parks, as well as national defense. They can also include social programs such as unemployment insurance, welfare, and food stamps that provide money to help citizens in need. Governments are responsible for deciding whether to provide these public goods, and they raise money for them through taxes and other fees. They also decide how to spend this money and draft budgets.
The way the United States’ government works is based on the Constitution that was written by its founding fathers. The Constitution separates the government into three distinct branches—legislative, executive, and judicial. The founding fathers knew that making any one branch too powerful caused big problems in the past, so they designed a system of checks and balances to prevent this. Each branch of the government has its own responsibilities, but they must work together to make laws and solve problems.
A key part of the United States’ government is its bureaucracy, which is an enormous network of employees working to carry out the policies that Congress creates. Some people dislike the bureaucracy because it can be slow and frustrating to navigate, but it’s an essential part of the democratic process. It protects the public from the influence of special interests and keeps members of Congress from becoming hopelessly gridlocked on minor issues. It also helps ensure that important agencies aren’t privatized, so they become geared toward profit rather than governmental results.
The role of government in a democracy is an ongoing debate that can’t be settled by simply looking at how many people are in a political party or how much property they own. Peabody writes that a government must be based on certain fundamental principles, including mutual toleration of political opponents and forbearance, which is the idea that you don’t use your power in the government to advance your own beliefs or those of your political party. These principles are not always easy to follow, and they are often eroded by corruption and by political parties that seek to manipulate the system for their own benefit. But they’re essential to democracy and to the health of the country as a whole.